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Testimony: Prevention of Child Abuse Amendment Act of 2009

Policy Director Sharra E. Greer testified at a joint hearing of the Public Safety and the Judiciary and Human Services Committees regarding the Prevention of Child Abuse Amendment Act of 2009. Children’s Law Center supported amendments to the Act that would provides strong and lasting protections for foster children’s school stability. We proposed changes that would, first, require the government to develop a comprehensive plan to improve dramatically foster children’s school stability, and, second, clarify foster children’s legal rights and establish a clear legal process for making school enrollment decisions.

School stability is an important issue for children in foster care. Removal from home disrupts a child’s entire family life. Unfortunately, currently when a child is removed from home it also disrupts her education because she is also often removed from school and enrolled in a new school across town or in Maryland. And, if this foster child moves from one foster home to another his school will probably change as well. Removal from school causes additional disruption dislocating children from where they are learning and where have formed friendships and positive relationships with adult professionals. 

Each time a child enters a new school, she must adjust to new teachers, new peers, and often new special education or other services. Weeks of schooling can be lost due to enrollment delays or temporary placements. Research has clearly documented that foster children’s academic performance suffers when they change schools. One scholar summarized the research in this way: “Perhaps the single most important thing that each of us can do to improve the educational outcomes for foster children is to ensure that their school placement remains stable.”

We urged that steps to improve foster children’s school stability follow simple principles. First, whenever possible, foster children should remain in their current school even when CFSA removes them from their home or changes their foster care placement. Second, when a school placement change must be made, the transition should be as quick as possible. Foster children should never sit at home waiting for paperwork to make their transition to school possible.  Third, decisions regarding foster children’s school enrollment should be made through a clear process which respects the legal rights of all parties to a neglect case.

Read the full testimony here.